Reposted from revcom.us
When your government is carrying out crimes against humanity, should you do nothing or should you SOUND THE ALARM?
For two members of Refuse Fascism and the Revolution Club in Los Angeles on trial this week, the answer was the latter. For this, they are being illegitimately prosecuted. Everyone concerned about the danger of a fascist America needs to stand with them.
UPDATE 6/27/2019: Hung Jury Sent Back By Judge to Keep Deliberating in #Freeway9 Case
Court Update from June 26, Los Angeles June 27, 2019 | revcom.us
UPDATE: At 3:30 on June 26, the jury in the #Freeway9 case let the court know they were hopelessly deadlocked on all three counts. The judge sent them back to deliberate and the jury resumes doing so at 9 am June 27.
Final arguments were made on Wednesday, June 26, by defense attorney Damon Alimouri and then the final word from the prosecutor for the government which in Orwellian speak is dubbed “the People” in court.
The defense rested on the following salient arguments. Mr. Alimouri reminded the jury of their responsibility to decide the fate of a fellow member of the community and of democracy as a whole. He reminded people of the right to due process, to a fair trial, to free speech, to liberty of thought worship—rights people risk their lives for all over the world. He told the jury why he had taken the case of his defendant pro bono because he felt passionately that his client is innocent and committed no crime. He argued that the government had not proven the charges on any count and in particular had not proven that his client had acted with malice or with intent to annoy or injure anyone. Even after showing countless videos, police witnesses, spending unnecessary time, the prosecution had not produced a shred of evidence to the contrary, direct or circumstantial.
Alimouri cited the way his client’s testimony about why he acted as he had and heralded his courage, emphasizing: “I am ashamed of myself that I don’t have this courage.” He argued that so many in society are disgusted with Donald Trump’s turn towards darkness, disgusted with the attacks on immigrants, ashamed of what has been done to Muslims, to the press, by the energizing of racist forces, by babies ripped from the arms of helpless parents. His client has stood up to the inhumanity and barbarism of this administration. If more people had time from jobs, responsibilities to children and relationships and more, wouldn’t many more do the same?
Addressing the question of why his client had protested on the freeway, Alimouri asked: Why anywhere but? He explained that everything we do is packed with meaning and that in extreme emergency, when there is a need for immediate change, what better way than to disrupt the daily commute and the mentality of business as usual?
Alimouri dissected and refuted the prosecution’s claims that the protest had jeopardized safety, that his client had failed to obey a lawful order, and argued forcefully that a misdemeanor code violation is not a crime.
He cited the court instructions to the jury, that they must have an abiding conviction beyond a reasonable doubt of guilt to convict, emphasizing that “abiding” means permanent. He emphasized that, to convict, they have to be confident that 50 years from now they will still feel his client is guilty. They have to be confident that history won’t look back with shame and regret, that people won’t look back and ask what happened? He asked people to consider how they will look back, will they be remorseful or proud of having stood on the right side of history. Trials like this are going to be in the news. Individual trials will be memorialized in your history books.
He said more, including further refuting the prosecution’s charges and methods, ending with a direct statement to the jury: You have the power to say NO! The only just verdict is not guilty on all counts. That is what is in line with truth and with reality.
This was followed by closing remarks by the prosecution. Then court was adjourned and the jury was sent to deliberate.
UPDATE 6/26/2019: Two #Freeway9 Heroes Take the Stand – Unapologetically Indicting the Trump/Pence Regime and the Political Persecution They Face
On June 25, the second to last day of the trial of two of the #Freeway9 defendants, the two defendants took the stand. They explained how they saw the danger of fascism posed by the Trump/Pence regime and why they had been motivated to protest on the 101 Freeway, actions for which they now face potentially three years in prison. The crimes of the Trump/Pence regime that motivated them – terror and cruelty against immigrants, the dismantling of governing norms, threats of war, destruction of the environment, attacks on the rights of women and LGBTQ people, and open white supremacy – have only grown more intense since their protests.
They were also able to expose what had thus far been suppressed throughout the trial: the politicized nature of how their case has been prosecuted. They testified about how a police informant had been sent in to spy on their meetings, how the Anti-Terrorism Division of the LAPD had decided to get involved in a mere traffic violation, how they had been grossly overcharged, and more. Much of their testimony was stricken from the record, but it was important that it was heard for the first time in court
The prosecution argued to the jury that it was an open-and-shut case and should be easy to see the need to convict. In response, the first of the two lawyers for the defense made their closing argument. They said there was nothing easy about convicting these defendants, exposing again how they had been overcharged and taking apart the prosecution’s case that simple driving infractions should make someone a criminal. They also argued that even with what they see as the best legal system, this is a moment of peril in which the normal checks and balances are not working. Congress is doing nothing to stop Trump. The courts have spent more time defending the right of religious bigots to refuse to bake cakes for gay couples than stopping Trump from committing treason. Trump ought to be in jail, but nothing is being done. He addressed the jury directly saying that they are the last line of defense, perhaps even the only defense or check that still works.
There have been more people in courtroom last few days, including from the media. La Opinion and Channel 54 has run some important coverage. A radio host has noted how significant it is that the defendants were able to force the prosecution to reveal some of the extent of political spying by the police, something that is not normally done. An LA Times reporter has been sitting in and noted informally the contrast between how these defendants are being prosecuted compared to those who took over the freeways after Trump was elected.
A bunch of supporters of the #Freeway9 attempted to wear mylar blankets into court (the metal “blankets” which are all that is being provided to so many of the migrant children and others being held inhumanely in Trump’s concentration camps). The bailiffs prevented most people from doing this, but three were able to go into the courtroom and wear these mylar blankets during the closing arguments. Others have been wearing shirts into the courthouse every day with questions like, “Would you have convicted Rosa Parks?” and “Would you have convicted the people who hid Anne Frank?”
There was a poignant exchange when the prosecutor challenged one of the defendants why they hadn’t done like the Women’s March, including by focusing on voting. The defendant spoke simply and sharply that the Democrats have done nothing to remove Trump and that while the Women’s March was an inspiring day, Donald Trump is still in office and people went home. Several on the jury seemed to nod in response.
Some of the statements of support for the defendants are indicating a perhaps growing recognition that waiting until 2020 is too late and that Trump might not leave even if voted out. Meanwhile, the emergency caused by this regime intensifies by the day, with Trump threatening to obliterate Iran, masses of children being tortured in U.S. concentration camps with growing numbers dying, and more.
Today, the other defense attorney will make their closing argument, the prosecution will respond, and the jury will begin their deliberations.
What you can do:
- Call the LA City Attorney Mike Feuer to demand his office stop the unjust prosecution and demand ALL CHARGES BE DROPPED on the Freeway9 and UCLA5. Call 213.978.8100.
- Pack the Courtroom Monday, July 1, 1:30 pm at the Metro Courthouse, 1945 S. Hill Street in downtown LA. Floor 6, Dept 62.
- Post THIS video on social media.
- Donate to the legal defense and to support the defendants.
A year and a half ago, on September 26 and November 21, 2017, a total of eight people stood on the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles at rush hour with the message “November 4: It Begins” and “Trump/Pence Must Go!” to call on others to act to stop the extreme danger to humanity and the planet posed by this regime. If found guilty, they could face up to three years in jail and fines up to $2,000.
These actions were taking up the Call from Refuse Fascism for “massive, sustained nonviolent protests in the streets of cities and towns across the country—protests that continue day after day and don’t stop, creating the kind of political situation in which the demand that the Trump/Pence regime be removed from power is met.”
Ask Yourself: Why Would These Defendants Nonviolently Risk Life and Limb to Make a Political Statement?
Chantelle, one of the two defendants now on trial, spoke to why she was compelled to act: “I decided to be part of the freeway action because I was confronted with doing nothing or doing something…. [Trump is] demonizing immigrants, calling them criminals, drug dealers, and rapists. Vilifying them in order to justify the ripping apart of families, and deportation back to the dangerous conditions in which they fled, jailing them and now detaining them in concentration camps in the most horrific conditions. People don’t understand that this is all extremely vital to consolidating a fascist regime. You need to cast off group after group and incite fear among the masses. He has given more power to the police ‘taking off the gloves’ and intensifying and legitimizing their torment of Black and Brown people. Even attacking our constitutional rights suppressing dissent and resistance….”
Alex, her co-defendant, said: “In 2017, a year and a half ago, think of what the Trump/Pence fascist regime was doing at that time… threatening North Korea with nuclear war, banning Muslims, restricting trans people from the military…. There was some outrage against this but people were just protesting as usual. Taking to the streets and then going home. What was needed, the only thing commensurate to what was going on, was people taking to the streets and not leaving. This was the call from Refuse Fascism for November 4: to bring millions into the streets in sustained, nonviolent political protest to stay in the streets until the regime is driven out.
“Also, we did this to sound the alarm against fascism. Those were not normal times. And now, fast forward to a year and a half later, look at all the children in concentration camps. And lawyers for the Justice Department are justifying all these things. Saying that migrant children don’t need toothbrushes, beds, anything sanitary…. All these things have consequence. This is the logic that leads to genocide… this is fascism!”
People like Chantelle and Alex understood the importance of stopping business as usual. Chantelle said, “Something bigger than a protest as usual needed to happen, and Refuse Fascism recognized all this immediately. People were getting in the streets… but then they were going home… then the next day less would be in the streets then again going home, then no one was in the streets. If we aren’t just as outraged now and driven into the streets to demand this regime be removed then what are we doing? We are accepting it, we are adjusting to nightmare after nightmare, horror after horror…. When we drive to work while this regime is stripping away rights of LGBTQ people we are normalizing fascism. While we drink our coffee and watch TV while ICE is ripping families apart we are collaborating with fascism. I couldn’t sit by and watch these things happening. I understood the danger and the importance of stopping Trump from gaining any more momentum. I proudly got in the freeway with the message of NOV 4: IT BEGINS. I stepped onto the freeway to show other people what is needed in order to drive out this regime. We, the people, need to stand up against the horrors of the Trump/Pence regime. In the name of HUMANITY, we need to break out of the safety of our routines and refuse to accept a fascist America. I got on the freeway for seven billion people of the world.”
It is very unfortunate that masses of people did not answer this call. This was the right thing to do—then and now, and had people taken the streets we might be living in a very different situation right now. The point is not to rue what might have been, but to act NOW to defend these fighters—as part of going forward now to what does need to be done.
A Very Political “Nonpolitical” Prosecution
The prosecutors for the city government have insisted there is nothing political about this trial, that it’s a simple case of allegedly violating traffic laws and disobeying police orders. But everything about this screams political prosecution.
First of all, the charges against these defendants were not brought by the California Highway Patrol, they were brought by the Major Crimes/Anti-Terrorist Division (ATD). This is part of the LAPD’s “Counter Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau”—the POLITICAL police. This division has a sordid history of spying, harassment, and deadly repression against a broad spectrum of political groups and individuals. If there is “nothing political” about this trial, then why is the Anti-Terrorist Division pressing charges for supposedly blocking traffic?!
Second, the ATD sent a spy into Refuse Fascism meetings to secretly record meetings and conversations with people, including one of the defendants now on trial. The prosecution has gone out of its way repeatedly to prevent this fact from coming up in the courtroom as it makes clear the political nature of these charges. As Alex himself said, “These trials and these charges are there to intimidate people. What does it mean that they sent a spy into meetings? This has a chilling effect where people don’t want to be part of what’s needed….” If there is “nothing political” about this trial, then why did the ATD send a spy into meetings—and why does the prosecution want to keep this fact from the jury?
Third, part of this freeway case included a set of conspiracy charges filed against two of the people accused of leading this protest who were well-known spokespeople for Refuse Fascism. After a judge ordered the city to turn over more information about its spying operation, including the identity of the spy, the city decided instead to drop these charges. Historically, conspiracy charges have been used to go after political leaders and amount to making it illegal to be part of organizing—or sometimes even discussing—a political protest beforehand. If there is “nothing political” about this trial, why did the city set up such charges—only to drop them when the highly political and highly repressive character of their actions were about to be exposed?
This is not about a traffic violation, this is about the suppression of dissent—trying to force any and all protest against this regime back into the safe confines of protest and politics as usual—while this regime continues to tear up what have been the ruling norms of society.
The only just verdict for the people who put themselves on the line to stop the business as usual of this fascist regime is NOT GUILTY.
In this moment—with Trump threatening to unleash war on the people of Iran, continuing to separate families and cage children in hellish conditions at the border—it is politically and morally imperative that people defy this regime: acting commensurate with the danger to the planet and standing with those who have.
Who Is the LAPD’s Major Crimes Division, aka Anti-Terrorist Division?
A police report connected with the Freeway 9 case reveals the Major Crimes Division of the LAPD sent in a confidential informant to meetings of Refuse Fascism to “gather intelligence” and illegally record conversations unbeknownst to those the informant talked with. The Major Crimes Division is part of the Counter Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau of the LAPD.
There is a long, sordid—and murderous—history of the LAPD illegally spying on a vast range of progressive, radical and revolutionary individuals and organizations which began in the 1950s. At the time, this was part of the U.S. government’s response to the political support and influence of the Soviet Union. For decades since then, the LAPD has illegally spied on, infiltrated and attempted to disrupt such groups involved in constitutionally protected political activity. In 1970, the LAPD established the Public Disorder Intelligence Division (PDID). It was revealed that PDID operatives posed as student members of “radical groups” including Students for a Democratic Society at UCLA as well as such groups as the United Farm Workers. Some time later, it was exposed that the PDID had over 55,000 intelligence dossiers on not only radical groups, but tens of thousands of people, from Hollywood notables to journalists, and that these records were shared with right-wing organizations. In exposing the illegal operations of the PDID, the ACLU uncovered undercover cops who admitted to illegally spying on political organizations, including the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP).
Here is one deadly result of one of PDID’s illegal operations: In 1980, the revolutionary communist Damián García along with two other revolutionaries raised the red flag over the Alamo in Texas, denouncing it as a symbol of U.S. imperialist conquest and domination. Twenty days later, Damián was murdered in an East LA housing project while carrying out revolutionary work, building for May Day 1980, by someone who declared “you hate the government, I am the government, your flag is red, mine is red, white and blue.” This same person was himself mysteriously murdered, which may have been a cover-up itself. It was later exposed that at the time of Damián’s assassination, an undercover LAPD cop was standing 5 feet away from Damián. This same pig had written internal LAPD reports identifying Damián as his assigned “target” based on Damián’s political affiliation with the RCP.
In 1983, in light of the revelations of the LAPD’s illegal spying and targeting of political organizations and individuals, it was forced to disband the PDID and a new division, the Anti-Terrorist Division (ATD) was created. But the ATD incorporated key functions of PDID in addition to stepped up surveillance, especially electronic spying. While he was chief of the LAPD, the notorious Darryl Gates ran an international political spying operation. In 1992, the RCP led a political battle to shut down a secret INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service, the forerunner of ICE) concentration camp in Pico-Union, a heavily populated Central American neighborhood. The LAPD viciously attacked and arrested 21 people during a series of protests. During the prosecution of these 21 protesters, the charges were dropped when the LAPD refused to turn over the names of all ATD officers who may have been present during the demonstrations as well as any documents related to ATD planning in advance of the protests. The ATD is now named the Major Crimes Division, the division which admits to the illegal political police spying on Refuse Fascism in relationship to the Freeway 9.